Beauvoir House, the beautiful home of Jefferson Davis, was re-opened to the public Tuesday, June 3, 2008, after the historic house sustained immense damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since that time, Beauvoir has been undergoing construction to return the house to its original state - as it looked when Jefferson Davis lived there. June 3, 2008, the anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ 200th birthday, was a perfect day to celebrate the re-opening of the National Historic Landmark. The house was re-opened to the public and they responded in unprecedented numbers. Approximately three to four thousand people attended the event. The massive turn out clearly showed the need of the people to return to some semblance of normalcy after seeing almost every building, home and business, destroyed by Katrina.
The day began with hundreds of people sitting and standing in the front yard, the entrance of the Color Guard carrying colorful flags whipping in the stiff breeze from the Gulf and speeches from dignitaries beginning with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Many of the speakers referred to the various roles Jefferson Davis played in his long career prior to becoming President of the Confederacy. A 21-gun salute was fired to commemorate the re-opening of Beauvoir. Sixteen members of the Davis family were present. To the delight of the audience they joined together and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jefferson Davis.
When the ceremonies were concluded, punch and cake were served and the house was opened once more to the public. Thousands of people toured the house which is still undergoing renovation on the inside. Several of the rooms are finished but others are yet to be completed. The line of people, many from other states, never stopped until Beauvoir closed at 5 p.m. All day, comments were heard regarding the beauty of Beauvoir House and how happy everyone was to have it open again. Women strolled about the grounds in hoop-skirted dresses and re-enactors braved the heat in period dress. A steady breeze from the gulf off-set the heat - accentuating the reason Jefferson Davis was so happy living there.
Just before the Retiring of the Colors and Military Recessional, Rick Forte, Sr., Chairman of the Combined Boards of Beauvoir and Master of Ceremonies, unveiled the life-size replacement of Jefferson Davis and his Dog, Traveller,at Beauvoir, by artist Jerry McWilliams, and introduced McWilliams as “Beauvoir’s Official Artist.” McWilliams, owner of Southern Cedars Plantation (circa 1834) near Raymond, first painted the Jefferson Davis portrait and unveiled it in 1989 at Beauvoir in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of Davis’ death. The painting hung in the library at Beauvoir until it was destroyed during Katrina. The replacement painting will hang in Beauvoir until the new library is built and then it will be placed in the library. Prints of the new painting will be available in the near future.
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